US blames Iran for attacks on Saudi oil facilities

WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday (Sep 14) accused Iran of leading attacks on Saudi oil plants that have cut the kingdom's output roughly in half, as he ruled out Yemeni involvement and denounced Tehran for engaging in false diplomacy.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed credit for the attacks on two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, including the world's biggest petroleum processing facility.

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Pompeo, however, said on Twitter that there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo said, referring to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

READ: Attacks on Saudi oil facilities threaten global supply, price hikes

READ: Houthi drones hit Saudi oil heartland, sources say crude flows disrupted

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"Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," he added. The State Department declined to provide any evidence to bolster Pompeo's claim.

"We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Irans attacks," Pompeo said, warning that the Trump administration would work with its allies to make sure Iran was "held accountable for its aggression."

The tweets signaled a more hawkish stance in Washington towards Tehran, following signs of a possible thaw in relations between the two nations after months of escalation.

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 pact that aimed to keep a lid on Tehran's nuclear ambitions and he has imposed a series of sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

But in recent weeks, Trump has said he would be open to meeting with Rouhani, perhaps on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly in New York later this month. Pompeo has said such talks could take place without any preconditions.

Rouhani, for his part, has said that Tehran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, would not talk to the United States until Washington lifts the sanctions.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, a close Trump ally and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday's attacks showed Iran was not interested in peace and was instead pursuing nuclear weapons and regional dominance.

"It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment," Graham said on Twitter.

Others cast doubt on Pompeo's allegations.

"This is such irresponsible simplification and it's how we get into dumb wars," Democratic Senator and committee member Chris Murphy tweeted.